A-League active support’s double edged sword


Forget the play-acting of Sergio Busquets, the bullish unrestrained antics of Pepe or even the arrogance of a certain Cristiano Ronaldo – the general consensus amongst football fans in Australia indicates that Damien de Bohun, the A-League boss who often prides himself in exhibiting strategic, forward thinking qualities, is perhaps the most hated man at the moment.

The A-League’s head honchos announced Monday that new protocols will be in place at the beginning of next season with regards to active support. The purpose is, erm, to protect the unique atmosphere which is generated by dedicated, club active supporters. They claim that it is a long term strategic move which will help in increasing the number of club memberships and also deepen fan engagement.

From the outset, it doesn’t sound at all that bad. But then again, Communism, from the outset, isn’t a bad idea either.

At first glance, it may seem justified that the FFA would bring in certain regulations. The fact is, nowadays, mainstream sports reportage on the beautiful game is much more fan orientated than football focused – the media seemingly set aside journalists to pounce on any sort of unruly fan behaviour.

Perhaps the first incident that comes to mind is the incident last year involving Sydney FC and Wanderers fans ahead of the Sydney Derby at Parramatta. “Hooligan horror”, read a headline from a certain publication – notice the generalisation made as it seemingly implies that most active supporters belong under this category.

A more recent incident between a section of Wanderers and Melbourne Victory supporters yet again highlights the undeniable fact that overly fanatical fans are capable of causing civil unrest.

Yet, this is also true for other sports. And it seems that the FFA are prepared to scratch the backs of media outlets in order to preserve their reputation at the expense of football fans and their interests.

The idea of mandatory memberships for active support in order to create a ‘family friendly environment’ is nothing short of ridiculous and goes to show the how disconnected Australian football’s governing body is from the average hard-core football fan.

Frankly, active support areas isn’t a congregation for family picnics, but an area where fans unite for one common cause – to assist their team to victory by creating an atmosphere which likeminded fans enjoy, and opposing teams resent.

Football fandom is all about walking the talk – acting on your beliefs in a religious manner, and just like religion itself, it should not be in any way governed.

Make no mistake, that’s not to say that fans are allowed to act however they want – quite the opposite, however, as fans are obliged act in a manner which is respectable and reflects well on the club. But the FFA would be naïve to think that these rule regulations would bring about more club memberships.

And, instead of generalising, as the media so often does, it would be much more useful for the FFA to sanction the individuals directly involved in specific incidents without also damaging the reputation of their more civilised counterparts. After all, football and the league itself ceases to exist without the diehard support of their fans – such regulations would only serve to drive fans away.

In short, FFA’s latest attack on active support will only serve to anger more fans. The idea that memberships would curb hooliganism is far-fetched and it goes to show just how strategically foolish they are in handling fan-related matters.